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Fighting is no Laughing Matter for Travis Browne

"I have my confidence back and I just got to go out there and perform." - Travis Browne

UFC heavyweight Travis BrowneAsk UFC heavyweight contender Travis Browne if he had any problem wearing an apron recently, and he doesn’t hesitate to say “None at all.”

The way he sees it, that’s part of gig in the acting / comedy pool, one he dipped his foot in during a recent commercial spot for one of his sponsors, SafeAuto.

Teaming up with fellow fighters Bart Palaszewski and Martin Kampmann, along with former Saturday Night Live favorite Norm MacDonald, Browne showed a nice bit of comedic timing in the spot, which he described as “fun and a good time.”

As for working with MacDonald, Browne appears to have made an impact on the popular comedian.

“It was fun because with my part I had him cracking up probably six or seven times,” recalled Browne. “Every time I would do my part he’d start laughing, so we’d have to cut and redo it. The guy has my kind of sense of humor, and I find him real funny.”

It was a nice change of pace from Browne’s day job as a mixed martial artist, and an especially welcome comic break following the first loss of his pro career last October against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. In that fight, the 30-year-old Browne tore his hamstring early in the first round, and without the use of his leg, he became a sitting duck for Silva, who stopped him with strikes at the 3:27 mark. Six months later, Browne is philosophical about the defeat.

“Realistically, life isn’t fair all the time,” said the Honolulu native. “Maybe I could look at it as I helped Antonio keep his job. What if I would have beaten him? He wouldn’t have gotten the shot against Alistair (Overeem) and he wouldn’t be fighting for the title (in May against Cain Velasquez). He might have got cut. So for whatever reason, it happened, and at the same time, I have to move on. There’s nothing I can do about it, it’s over with, and in the next fight I have to come out and fight like I’ve never lost before. I have my confidence back and I just got to go out there and perform.”

To his credit, Browne didn’t look for the exit door after suffering the injury, which he would have been well within his rights to do. But given the fighting spirit seemingly possessed by all competitors from Hawaii, Browne assumed that he would find a way to win, so he pressed on.

“At that point, my mindset was, you can either quit and say I don’t know what’s going on, my leg’s jacked up, or you can go on and try to win a fight, which is what I had been training so hard to do in the first place,” he said. “And I made the decision to put my head down and try to finish the fight, get through it, and fight like a champion. You can’t sit there and give up when something like that happens. I prepared and did everything I could do for that fight, and something you can’t prepare for happened to me. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me; it’s not anything like that. It is what it is. It’s a sport and that’s the kinda stuff that happens.”

And with it, the pressure of having that “0” in his loss column is gone. But as he explains it, being unbeaten was never a concern for him.

“I think people that buckle under that kind of pressure are weak-minded, and I’ve never been that kind of person,” said Browne, now 13-1-1. “I never worried about my zero. At the end of the day, when that cage door closes, it’s one man against another, and the one thing that this sport will teach you is that records don’t matter. Someone is leaving with a loss. Fighters that focus on that kind of stuff, if you’re worried about that, it shows that you have a chink in your armor. When you’re an athlete at the top level of this sport, and especially in this sport, you know that momentum means very little because it only takes one shot to change the momentum of any fight. And I think anybody at our level knows that.”

It’s the mindset he is bringing into Saturday’s bout against former world title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga. For Browne, a big win over the Brazilian veteran puts the Silva fight far in his rearview mirror and gets him back on track for a return to the title picture. But Gonzaga, who has won three straight, including two in the UFC, has his own sights set on getting back to the top, and the way Browne looks at his opponent, “Napao” is showing the best form of his career.

“I see a very dangerous Gabriel,” he said. “He’s back in old form, and when I say that I don’t mean a one-dimensional Gabriel where he’s just a grappler, or when he tried to come out and just stand up with people. He’s come out with a great understanding of the standup game, but he’s getting back to his roots in the jiu-jitsu and submitting them. But he’s using his standup in order to get people to the ground. He makes them respect his standup and then he takes them down and he submits him. That’s what he should have been doing a long time ago. But the fight game’s funny like that; it will trick you into thinking certain things and I think he’s just as dangerous now as he ever has been before.”

From the sounds of it, Browne is feeling pretty dangerous himself heading into this pivotal bout, especially with the spring holding plenty of intriguing heavyweight matchups that could directly impact the winner of this Saturday’s fight. “Hapa” admits to having looked at all the various puzzle pieces in the division before training camp began, but at the moment, he’s focusing on the fight and will resume the What If game on Sunday morning.

“When I wasn’t getting ready for a fight I’d try to play all the What Ifs,” he said. “But right now, I’m focused on Gabriel. After this fight, it depends on how the cards play out. There’s Silva and (Cain) Velasquez; Overeem said he’ll be ready to fight this summer, so he’ll need a fight. Then you have (Junior) dos Santos against (Mark) Hunt, and there are some interesting matchups. You have (Cheick) Kongo against Roy (Nelson) and (Rodrigo) Big Nog (Nogueira) against (Fabricio) Werdum. So there are a lot of fights happening right around my fight, and I think it depends on how things play out before I can determine my next opponent.”

It’s the mature and humble attitude Browne has sported since entering the sport, and likely the one that has made his stock remain high despite the loss to Silva. That’s an appeal that can’t be underrated, and Browne is appreciative of the fans he has and the support he’s received.
“It helps solidify that I’m doing something right and that there’s a fanbase behind me and that a company like SafeAuto would want to use me in one of their commercials,” he said. “It goes past whether you win or lose. You want to be part of a winning team and everything, but at the same time, when you start to like the person for who they are, I think that’s one thing that the general public can respect. I’m pretty real. I don’t put on a façade, I don’t act like a rock star, and I’m a down to Earth person. I’m a father first, I’ve always said that, and I think people can respect that and that’s what they like about me.”

But what about a career in comedy after this fighting thing is done?

“Possibly,” he laughs.